Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF

p. ix

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF

p. xi

Thanks to Todd Orjala for helping to shape the manuscript, and to Kristine Vesley for helping with the fine-tuning. And thanks...

read more

Deer Beds: A Prologue

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 1-4

The telephone jangled at 3:32 A.M. After thirteen years as a firefighter—being randomly paged at any and all hours—my conditioned response to such a nighttime call is amusing. I truly cannot move as fast when awake and in daylight. By the end of the first ring the quilt was off and my feet thumped the floor. I...

read more

The Snow Lotus

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 5-10

It's a singular season, ripe with old scat, and The Reverend is attentive. The only time he'll allow me to surge past him on skis is when he pauses to vigorously sniff at the winter's accumulation of wolf droppings. I'm pleasantly surprised at how many there are. It's March 21st, and we have heard the local pack...

read more

Snow White and the Timberwolf

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 11-18

If you slice an apple in half crosswise, the bisected seed pod will appear as a near-perfect five-pointed star, which is, traditionally, a symbol of immortality. In the proper setting— say, a party where wine has nudged the perceptions of the resident metaphysicians (and aren't we all?)—a demonstration can be dramatic...

read more

Blue Velvet Number Nine

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 19-26

We understood that the black spruce planting site would punish us. The customary habitat of black spruce is wetland, and as Richard said when we first observed the site, "You know you're in trouble when you're planting trees next to marsh marigolds." With intermittent...

read more

The Cosmos and Lysistrata

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 27-32

I blinked at a universe down in the bog. It was an early morning in late May, and the temperature had been near frost at dawn, about thirty-four degrees. A pregnant dew collapsed out of the ether, heavy as rainfall, and the labrador tea and leatherleaf were beaded and brilliant. Streaming from just over the spruce tops, sunlight glutted the bog, and I was dazzled...

read more

A Damn Idiot

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 33-40

It was a wet summer in Idaho's Nez Perce National Forest, and the mountains were ripe with wildf lowers. In a meadow above Fish Creek I was cheered by flecks and clusters of color—red, yellow, blue, violet, orange—against a lush backdrop of multiple shades of green encompassed by a cloudspeckled sky. There...

read more

Washing the Sky to Amber

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 41-50

One sizzling afternoon, as we hunkered down in "the black" next to a charred deadfall, The G-Man said, "Every day out here has at least one moment." I nodded, reckoning the slow hours of monotony and drudgery that are often the most formidable challenge of a wildfire crew. Contrary to vivid impressions offered by the media, boredom...

read more

The Guts of God

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 51-58

"Tonight/' Loki assured me, "would be an ideal time to die." He's a hopeless liar, and merely a fleeting voice in my head, but in the wake of that stunning passage of the autumnal equinox, I agreed. In principle. Mercury and Jupiter had gleamed briefly on the orange stage of dusk, setting fortyfive minutes behind the sun. The diurnal solar death was gilded with the aroma...

read more

Later

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 59-66

We figured out later that at the precise moment Pam was in the house talking about Alice, I was crushing her with the left rear wheel of my pickup truck. Pam was telling her colleague Maggie that we had to be careful when Alice, our eighteen-year-old cat, was outside, because she was nonchalant about vehicles and slow to avoid them. We had to deposit...

read more

The Awesome Triple-L

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 67-78

I wrote a novel once, worked at it off-and-on for nine years. I finished it three times, with each incarnation longer and more complex than the last. A New York literary agent dubbed it "original," but I didn't let that go to my head. I knew she was employing original as a gentle euphemism for weird. As...

read more

Ditching the Future

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 79-90

When I was thirteen years old, my brother David was seven and a half. Because of that age difference, we weren't buddies. The school system—omnipotent social arbiter—had established us six grades apart. Though most students are analogous by the time of graduation, or at least more alike than different, a...

read more

Nasty Business

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 91-104

I'll call the victim Sulo, and if Neil and I had known his plan, we'd never have invited him into the sauna. I was helping Neil construct a boathouse out of cedar logs a few bright summers ago, and we worked hard at it all day. Neil lit his neighbor's sauna after lunch, and periodically stoked the firebox the rest of the afternoon. We anticipated a relaxing...

read more

Total Eclipse of the Clouds

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 105-110

The illness punched me. I was stretched out in front of the woodstove, watching a video, and as I stood up, chills consumed me instantly. I shuddered, teeth chattering, and Pam stared from across the room. We were astounded by the sudden violence. My only warning had been a vague scratchiness at the...

read more

Blood Walk

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 111-118

I walked twenty-five miles in a wet snowfall. The route was a labyrinthine trek through the streets of Mankato, Minnesota, a town I'd never seen before I stepped off the bus that morning. I was issued a crude map, but it was nearly useless, and soon smeared. I was at the mercy of small, handmade signs and arrows..

read more

The Magic Puck

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 119-126

A few years ago I was offered a full-time job—with benefits. The hourly wage was decent and the work didn't sound onerous. It was income and security we certainly needed. Such offers—out of the blue—are rare. I turned it down immediately. Actually, I was surprised at the swiftness of my response. That must mean, I reasoned, that it was the correct decision. But there was...

read more

Tilting Round the Far Spruce

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 127-132

Like an alchemist with his stone, I carried my skis to the edge of the bog that rings Secret Lake. It was January 28th, and if not for the trail I'd been tramping since early November, I would have wallowed past my knees in snow. "I went out to the hazel wood," wrote W. B. Yeats, "Because a fire was in my head." I went out onto the frozen lake because there was a glow in the east—moonrise. And because there...

read more

An Easy Winter

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 133-156

It was a mild winter with little snow—an easy one—but I felt lucky to see the spring. Some didn't make it. We drove into that winter on December 1st, winding down the Stingy Lake Forest Road with the headlights off. A misting of snow had painted the gravel white and left the forest black. The snowfall vanished into the woods, settling delicately on leaf...

read more

Smoking Mountain

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 157-162

When I came to I saw that Brute was still out cold, lying on his back in the volcanic ash. We were fortunate that this wasn't some hairy technical climb, where we were inching around rock outcrops or depending on handholds, because it was the second time in a half hour that we had both passed out. Our...

read more

Farewells

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 163-166

Three years in a row I left home for the summer. I had a job with the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho, battling wildfires. My specific position was in "helitack," as a member of a helicopter crew. Our missions included initial attack on fires, medevacs, search and rescue, reconnaissance (visual and infrared), slinging cargo, and the support and retrieval of smokejumpers. It's...

read more

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 167-167

PETER M. LESCHAK is a freelance writer who lives in northeastern Minnesota....